On Social Safety Features in RPGs

Social safety features in tabletop RPGs (such as the X-card) prevent exploration of controversial, sensitive, or extreme subject matter in exactly the same way that safe words in BDSM prevent exploration of kinky sex. That is, they don’t prevent it at all. In both cases the exploration is facilitated by setting parameters inside of which exploration can occur responsibly in a trusting and mutually enjoyable manner.  This does not seem all that difficult to grok for me.  

Not all tables need the x-card, and there are other ways to implement social safety at your table, but where needed the X-card is a simple and useful tool. Maybe the standing culture at your table is simply not to dive into any subject matter that could be considered sensitive. That’s fine: just recognize that you may not always know or agree with the folks at your table as to what constitutes a sensitive subject. YMMV. Obviously, social safety features should be used in conjunction with and not as a replacement for communicating with the people at your game table.

(Cross-posted from Tumblr.)

The DM Bible

A few months ago someone by the username of 1dmmagic posted a series of photos to an imgur gallery showing a “DM Pocket Guide” or “DM Bible” that they’d made to streamline running their local game.  Take a look:

Dungeon Master Guide by 1dmmagic
So pretty!

Unfortunately, the author was unwilling to share or sell their file or work, as “It contains text from numerous copyrighted works, not to mention hundreds of dollars worth of Mike Schley’s amazing cartography.” Alas — understandable. But looking through the images was very inspiring — something like this would be extremely helpful, especially when playing D&D. It goes hand in hand with my first impressions of 5e, shared over on Google Plus:

Michael Harrel: Reading my new used copies of D&D5e, I do find that there is a pretty good version of D&D in here, and that I like most of the directions it has taken. That said, the good stuff is buried in unnecessarily wordy prose. 

I can forgive it somewhat because it has to be a gateway RPG, and so what I think may be overexplanation may for others be a fresh introduction to something, but the important information just never gets distilled to easily manageable chunks or summaries.

Like, I want to play it, but I want to have an printed SRD instead of the PHB around when I do.

This jumped back into my brain a couple days ago, reading a post on Questing Beast about “control panel layout” used by OSR publications, which “puts all of the relevant information from a single topic on a single page (or two page spread)…Visuals often take priority, with flowcharts and diagrams replacing traditional text, in order to facilitate faster absorption of the information.” 

1dm’s pocket guide seems to fit this description very well; or at least its purpose would certainly go hand in hand with that design goal. Let’s examine a little closer to see what exactly 1dm has done.

The Tabs

So we have:

1.Red Section: Rules (mostly from the PHB and DMG)

  • Adventuring
  • Combat
  • Conditions
  • Afflictions
  • Obstacles
  • Chases (taken from here.)
  • Toolbox 

2. Green Section: NPCs

  • Names
  • Races
  • Characteristics
  • Professions (taken from here.)
  • Insults (taken from movies, books, &c, with an emphasis on Shakespeare)

3. Blue Section: Treasures

  • Currency (taken from here.)
  • Rewards (taken from the DMG.)
  • Relics (taken from here.)
  • Basic Trinkets (taken from the PHB.)
  • Story Trinkets (taken from here.)
  • Elemental Trinkets (taken from here.)
  • Lair Trinkets (taken from here.)
  • Giant’s Bag (taken from Storm King’s Thunder.)
  • Gemstones (taken from the DMG.)
  • Art Objects (taken from here.)

4. Purple Section: Adventures

  • Adventures (taken from the DMG.)
  • Villains (taken from the DMG.)
  • Mysteries
  • Quests (taken from here.)
  • Rumors (taken from here.)
  • Locations (taken from here.)
  • Settlements
  • Population 
  • Taverns (taken from Dragon Magazine #418)

5. Yellow Section: Organizations (all taken from here.)

  • Noble Houses
  • Guilds
  • Secret Societies
  • Cults
  • Outlaw Bands
  • Marketplace Vendors 

6. Dungeons

  • Chambers (taken from the DMG.)
  • Dressing (taken from the DMG.)
  • Hindrances (taken from the DMG.)
  • Books (taken from here.)
  • Riddles (taken from here.)

6. Maps (all purchased from https://prints.mikeschley.com)

  • Environs (Regional maps)
  • Communities (Town maps)
  • Buildings (Building maps)
  • Dungeons (Dungeon maps)
  • Weather 

1dm mentions that the cost of producing his guide was “about $128.” I’d estimate the following to break this down somewhat:

Were it me, I would likely cut costs on the map section: Mike’s digital maps are really not too expensive at $2, and he’s a very talented cartographer, but with tools available to easily create one’s own gorgeous maps (e.g. HexKit and Wonderdraft for larger-scale regional maps), not to mention the various tutorials for making your own maps in GIMP or Photoshop, I think that’s a cost that could easily be lowered. 

In Our Own Image

The BIG question, of course, is what would we do differently if we made our own DM Bible?

The main thing I can see that definitely seems to be missing is: Monsters. I would like to see a few spreads on monsters; perhaps a whole color section. Random encounter tables would be a good bet; I suppose you could slip in stat blocks for some of the more common monsters native to various environment types. Or you could use tables for random creature generation like the ones in The Perilous Wilds or The Random Esoteric Creature Generator

 One of the advantages of using a ring’d binder and making all the pages removable is that you can easily swap them in and out if the party moves to a new location or region. Your names list isn’t appropriate anymore because the PCs are traveling extensively in the Underdark or another Plane? Have your Planar names sheet ready and you can just swap it in until they return. Same with your encounter tables, or maps. 

And of course, there’s no reason this needs to be Dungeons and Dragons 5e. Swap out with your favorite edition, swap in13th Age or Shadow of the Demon Lord; swap in your favorite OSR ruleset, swap out for your own D&D house rules! Swap in Apocalypse World or (name your favorite RPG here). What would it look like?

Another bit to ponder: What would a player-facing version of this look like? One can envision a product that includes something like the above as the DMG, and then a PHB-version for each of the players. The aforementioned Apocalypse World does something like this, with its playbooks for the PCs being tri-fold pamphlets and the main rulebook being officially the MC Playbook.(Though it’s not exactly presented in the Control Panel Layout style.) 

Some Gratitude

Roleplaying games have been a source of a lot of joy and fun throughout my life. For the past 25 years, I’ve been able to get together with friends (whether in real life or Through the Magic of the Internet) and collaboratively create and explore worlds and narratives that could not have come to pass any other way. I’ve met many new friends through the hobby, both online and IRL, who I wouldn’t have gotten to know without a shared love of pretending to be other people. In short, I have a lot for which to be grateful about RPGs and the RPG community. Many thanks to you all! 

[Monsterhearts] Google+ Hangouts One-Shot Play Report

So, following my GenCon Monsterhearts game, I offered to run a one-shot of it for my regular online group (the ones I’m writing Camlann with).  They read the play report and agreed it sounded awesome, so we played a game over Google+ Hangouts (which is our usual medium).  Joe and Jennifer from the GenCon game joined us, also.  Hannah kindly typed out notes for us as we played, and gave me permission to post them here. (Bekka wrote in the last few scenes, as Hannah had to attend to a crying infant).

The Characters:

Shiraz – The Fae
Played by Bekka
Look: Disheveled, mesmerizing eyes
Origin: Fae blooded
Moves: Fairy contract, Unashamed
Strings: 1 on Lilith
5 on Claire

Lilith – The Werewolf
Played by Hannah
Look: Unkempt, fierce eyes
Origin: Ancestral power
Cold -1
Moves: Primal Dominance, Uncontainable
Lilith transferred in a couple years ago, shortly after her father died. For the most part she’s well-adjusted socially and has a few good friends, but about once a month she has some major incident with another student, and would have been suspended several times over were it not for her mother’s intercession. In the evenings she waits tables at her mom’s vegan diner.
Strings: 2 on Gerard (has been watching him since she caught him going through James’ stuff)
1 on Raz

Claire – The Mortal
Played by Jennifer
Look: Quiet, doe eyes
Origin: Nobody
Hot+1* (advance to +2)
Moves: True Love, Sympathy is My Weapon, Down the Rabbit Hole
Strings: 1 on Lilith
2 on Shiraz

Gerard – The Witch
Played by Joe
Look: Brooding, calculating eyes
Origin: Gifted
Moves: Sympathetic Tokens, Hex-Casting (Watching, Illusions), Sanctuary
Strings: 1 on Lilith, 2 on Raz 2, 1 on Claire

Play Report:
It’s late in the evening at James’ house. He and Raz are in the living room, in the midst of James giving Raz a blowjob. Gerard, on the other side of town in his parents’ attic, is casting a hex using a sympathetic totem he stole from James. He succeeds in putting himself in James’ body, and immediately begins to choke. Raz looks down, confused as to why he’s suddenly so turned off. James/Gerard runs off and asks where the bathroom is. Raz reminds him that it’s his house.

Gerard finds the bathroom and stares at himself in the mirror, discovering that his features are superimposed on James’ face. He simultaneously curses his stupidity and admires his physique.

The doorbell rings. It’s Lilith; as is her custom, she barges into the living room after one ring. “Hey fucktard, I–oh.” Raz, still a bit bewildered after James’ swift departure, says hello. Lilith asks where James is, and when Raz explains she goes to the bathroom door and asks what’s wrong. Gerard attempts an impression of James’s voice and does a horrible job; Lilith knows something is strange here, but Gerard manages to shut her down. She says she’ll just take the leftover risotto she brought him home. Shiraz offers to eat it, which earns him a “fuck you,” and when he offers to do that too, she says he’s not her type and leaves in a huff.

Meanwhile, Claire is working at Gulliver’s, the independent bookstore her father manages. She’s behind the counter as Will, a boy she recognizes from school, walks in and starts looking at books. He glances around furtively, then reaches out, plucks a book off the shelf, and puts it in his bag. Then he heads for the door.

Claire follows him and asks what books he was interested in. Will explains he was looking at the magic books because he’s a witch. Claire says that’s really interesting, then asks what book is in his bag. Will eventually reveals that he was stealing a Sexonomicon-esque hardcover worth about thirty dollars. Claire makes a deal with him–if he gets her into the pool area during swim practice, which is private, she’ll take care of the book. Will says he’ll handle it, and runs out, setting off the alarm. Claire’s dad refrains from writing her up if she’ll close tonight.

Gerard decides it would be best to get James’s body and his own in the same place so they can… collide? Details. He finds James’s bike and takes off for his house. Raz starts making some calls.

Back in the bookstore, Claire sees Luke, a member of the swim team, answer his phone and greet Raz. Apparently there’s a party at James’s house tonight. She convinces her dad to let her out of closing so she can go, since he does want her to make more friends.

Gerard makes it back to his own house. The only light on is in the attic. He finds the spare key under the gnome, and creeps upstairs. The attic is empty; the door is open. He goes inside and starts to cast another hex to switch him and James back where they belong.

Lilith walks home to find James, outside, having a panic attack. At first she doesn’t understand why he seems to have lost twenty pounds of muscle, but when she tells him she just smelled him in his own bathroom and realizes, in a roundabout way, what’s going on. She says they need to find Gerard. James asks who that is; Lilith says it’s not important, and they go.

Gerard opens his eyes and finds himself in Will’s body. There is a masking tape pentagram on the floor and a Sexonomicon on the floor, open to a love spell. A picture of Gerard is nearby. Gerard finds Will’s cell phone and calls himself.

Lilith and James are on their way back to James’s house when a cell phone rings. James freaks out and Lilith asks who the fuck Will is. James answers at last, and Gerard asks for William, realizing too late that Will is now in James’s body. Gerard hangs up. James asks Lilith again who Gerard is, and she says when she left he was still in James’s bathroom, so they’d better go back to his house.

Claire arrives at the party right  behind Luke; only a few people are there right now, and Raz is on the couch making out with Meredith, the cheer captain at the rival school across town. Meredith asks if Raz has a room or something; he says sure. Claire tries to think of a way to stop them, but can’t come up with anything that wouldn’t result in being seen as socially awkward. She keeps her cool, and instead starts talking with Luke. He asks where she goes to school, and she reminds him that they have like three classes together. He gets her a beer.

Lilith and James arrive at his house to find four people walking in before them. Lilith tells James to wait outside and not go anywhere, then walks straight to the bathroom and opens the door to find two people she doesn’t recognize locked in an embrace. They tell her to get in or get out. She slams the door and goes to the living room to bluntly ask random people if they’ve seen Gerard.

In Will’s body, Gerard is running out of ideas. He kneels in the center of the masking tape pentagram and stares into the abyss, asking where Will in James’s body is at that moment. Apparently he is in Gerard’s house, naked, staring into the bathroom mirror. Gerard hears footsteps outside Will’s door, and Will’s father reminds him that they don’t lock doors in this family. Gerard tries to get him to leave from the other side of the door. While Will’s parents are conferring, Gerard finds Will’s hoodie and attempts to breeze past them. They confront him, and he tells them he doesn’t need to listen to their bullshit. At last he makes it out of Will’s house, and sprints straight to his own.

By now, Luke has his hand on Claire’s knee, and asks if she wants to go see if there’s a room upstairs. Claire asks if there’s another one next to the other one. They go to find it, but Lilith stops and asks if they’ve seen Gerard, then tells them to have fun fucking. Claire and Luke go to the bedroom next to the one where Raz and Meredith are fucking; they can hear them through the wall. They are in James’s room–Claire has been here before. When Luke notices how awkward Claire is while listening to the activity next door, Luke helps her undress, pulls her toward the bed, and starts making out with her.

Lilith gives up on finding Gerard at James’s house and goes to find James, but he walks in before she can leave and starts screaming at everyone to get out of his house. Lilith convinces him that his parents will be way more pissed about him being in some other dude’s body when they get back than about some party, and promises to help him clean up. They leave and go to Gerard’s house.

Claire and Luke are having sex. Claire is starting to warm up to the idea, but then Luke tells her she’s hotter than she looks. Claire tells him to stop talking.

Gerard makes it back to his own house and finds Will, in James’s body, in Gerard’s bathroom. Will suggests he should go back and get his book, since it was his spell that started the whole thing, because “I’m like you now!” Gerard tells him in no uncertain terms that it was his own spell that caused this, and they start to argue. Will says he’s never seen Gerard “do anything like this”. Gerard takes offense and casts an illusion to make Will believe that he is covered with snakes and biting insects. The hex backfires and Will is covered in actual snakes and biting insects. Gerard snaps out of his rage and bats at the attacking creatures, then undoes the hex, but the snakebites remain. Will starts to froth at the mouth as James’s body swells with the venom, and Gerard takes him upstairs to the circle to undo the spell that started the whole mess.

As he casts the reversal spell, Gerard sees himself walking beside some sort of large dog. He sees himself and Will in the attic, then the two of them and James all within the circle saying something, and finally an image of Raz, nude against a black background.

Lilith and James arrive at Gerard’s house. James’s smell is thick about the place, and the door is unlocked, but lights are starting to come on due to the screaming and whatnot. Lilith grabs James’s hand and rushes in.

Claire finds it hard to get the sound of Meredith’s screams out of her head. She bumps into the cheerleader as they’re both leaving their respective places of fucking, and mutters something derisive under her breath, then goes downstairs for another beer. There she sees Raz dancing and goes to join him. She turns on the doe eyes and dances close.

Gerard manages to get Will up to the attic without his parents seeing him, but he can hear them walking around. He explains that he was watching a horror movie. His parents go back to bed, just as James and Lilith enter the house. Gerard frantically scans through his books; Will isn’t moving much anymore. Lilith and James walk in, and Gerard tells them it’s all Will’s fault.

Lilith grabs him and tells him she will rip out his jugular if he doesn’t fix everything in three minutes. Gerard insists that he can them all back in their right bodies, but he can’t heal James; Lilith punches him. James says he’s fine where he is, but Lilith says she won’t let anything happen to him. She also promises Gerard that when he’s back in his proper body, no one will ever find it. Gerard undoes the hex–he is back in his own body, Will is in Will’s body, and James is dead. Lilith transforms.

Claire and Raz are slow-dancing when Meredith grabs Claire, spins her around, slaps her in the face, and calls her a slut. Claire attempts to hit her back, but Meredith tackles her and punches her. Luke pushes Meredith off of Claire. Someone else from Meredith’s school punches Luke, and the party dissolves into a violent mess. Raz grabs Claire and they make a run for it. Someone crashes into Raz, but Luke grabs Claire and gets her outside. She argues that they have to go back for Raz because if the cops come, Raz would miss their next swim meet.

Gerard starts to flee but Will shoves him back to Lilith, who attacks. Gerard casts another illusion hex, which affects everyone in the house.

Meredith’s boyfriend, Chad, the captain of the football team at the rival school, drags Raz back into the melee and pins him on the ground. Raz shamelessly seduces him. Claire and Luke fight their way back through the crowd and find Chad and Raz kissing. They start to walk out, and Raz offers his hand to Claire as Luke and Chad clear the way for them.

Lilith, blinded by the illusory snakes and insects, strikes out at the wrong place, missing Gerard. Gerard casts a binding spell that prevents Lilith from doing harm to anyone else. At this point, James wakes up. Gerard and Lilith notice this gradually; Lilith is still snapping and slavering. Gerard tries to reassure James that he’s going to take him to the hospital and then leaves to find his sister. Lilith turns her attention to James and tries to harm him, but she can’t because of the binding spell. Gerard finds his sister screaming and writhing and he reverses the spell. He tries to convince her to drive him and James to the hospital. He fails and then his parents are in the hall, too. He tries to explain to his dad that he was watching a werewolf movie with a boy who now needs to go to the hospital. Everyone is convinced there is a gas leak in the house, causing the hallucinations. His dad goes to grab James while Gerard tries to stop him, but fails. His dad goes up to the attic. Lilith escapes through the window.  Gerard’s dad brings James back down to the car with the Gerard and his sister and his mom. James is speaking in an unknown language. Gerard grabs James’ head and gazes into the his eyes.  Gerard can’t see anything, but James gazes deep into Gerard and says in perfect English, “Hello, Gerard.”

Luke leaves, Raz convinces Chad to go back and save Meredith, but only if Raz promises to meet Chad the next day. Claire takes Raz to his place and Raz seduces her. But he asks her to promise to let him see Chad the next day, she says she’s in love with Raz and Raz says that he “won’t sleep with Chad” when he meets him.

[GenCon] Monsterhearts Play Report

Last week was GenCon, and I played in a few games of it, including MonsterHearts by Joe McDaldno.  Although it was the last game I played at the con (we started around noon on Sunday), it’s going to be the first I write up because it’s the only one for which people requested that I send them the notes.  So here it is!

The folks involved in the game, and their characters, were:

  • Joe, the MC
  • Michael (me) as Ray, the Hollow.
  • Dylan as Veronica, the Queen
  • Lee as Logan, the Infernal*
  • Hamish as Lucian, the Vampire
  • Jenn as Rowan, the Selkie
  • Dave as Gabriel, the Chosen
  • Thai as Zach, the Werewolf

*(Lee had to leave about halfway through the session.  Joe took over the character as an NPC.)

We all created our characters:

Ray – The Hollow
Look: Haunted, Vacant Eyes
Origin: The product of a wish
Hot-1 (*), Cold-1, Volatile+1, Dark+2 (*)
Moves: “Better than Nothing”, “Mimicry”, (“Metamorphosis” added later on)

Veronica – The Queen
Look: Icy, captivating eyes
Origin: The source of the infection
Hot+2 (*), Cold+1 (*), Volatile-1, Dark-1
Moves: “The Clique” (Cultists), “Many Bodies”, “Streaming” [one of these last two was picked up in game via an advance]

Logan – The Infernal
Look: Anxious, calculating eyes
Origin: Last-chancer
Hot -1, Cold -1, Volatile +2, Dark +1
Moves: “Soul Debt”, “Dark Recruiter”
Bargains: “Uncanny Voices”, “Strings Attached”

Lucian – The Vampire
Look: smoldering, hungry eyes
Origin: many ages old
Hot 2, Cold 1, Volatile -1, Dark -1
Moves: The Feeding, Hypnotic, Inescapable (bought during play – after the beach sex scene)

Rowan – The Selkie
Look: mussed hair, far away eyes
Origin: curious about the human form
Hot 0 (advanced to 1), Cold 1, Volatile -1, Dark 1
Moves: Catch of the Day, Ocean’s Breath

Zach – the Werewolf
Look: Rugged, cunning eyes
Origin: Ancestral power
Hot+1, Cold-1, Volatile+2, Dark-1 (later raised to =0)
Moves: “Primal Dominance”, “Spirit Armour”

Gabriel – the Chosen
Look: Stubborn, unwavering eyes
Origin: Doing what’s necessary
Hot+1, Cold=0, Volatile1, Dark-1
Moves: “Mercy”, “Take the Blow

(I sadly didn’t get a chance to copy the other playbooks — if you’re reading this and you played one of the characters, you should post it in the comments!)

(Thanks, everyone!)

Some character notes and connections:

  • Veronica’s infection is an STD of some sort, transmitted by blood.  Her cult is the strongest clique in the school.
  • Logan’s Dark Master is named Lucient
  • Rowan is very curious about the human form
  • Zach is part of a pack
  • Gabriel’s family is crazy fundementalist Christian.  He sees past Ray’s BS backstory.  His father is dead; his mother, Mathilda, is very churchy.  He is not following her ways.  Mathilda wished for a new son.  Thus, Ray.
  • Rowan saved Lucian from being trapped at the bottom of the ocean.
  • Zach has seen Gabriel kill people.
  • Logan stole Rowan’s pelt.
  • Logan and Ray are Gabriel’s trusted monster hunting friends.  Gabriel intends to save Logan from whatever trouble he’s in.
  • Ray takes his social cues from other people, and because Veronica’s clique is the most popular, he’s hovering at the fringe of the clique, trying to get in.

Play Report

The game takes place near the sea, in San Francisco.  Just over the bridge.  It’s the start of the schoolweek.  The following Friday is Halloween.  There’s some sort of Fright Night festivity planned for then.  People are positioning to go, figuring out with whom and as what, etc.

Monday, under the bleachers.  Rowan has tracked Logan down.  Veronica is in earshot.  Logan wants Rowan to give herself to Lucient in exchange for her pelt.  She refuses and demands it back.  Logan uses his uncanny voice, realizing that she’s afraid the principal will discover that she has no family.  He tries to use this as leverage.  Overhearing this, Veronica realizes what Rowan is.  Rowan refuses to make a deal, and storms off.

Veronica sidles up to her as she leaves, and offers to help get the pelt back.  She likes helping people, she says.  Tyler (one of her croneys) is interested in Rowan.  Veronica wants to set them up on a date.  Rowan agrees, but she wants Veronica to get the pelt first.

Later, at lunch, Lucian approaches Veronica.  She being the leader of the most popular clique at school, he wants to feed on her the most.  He swaggers over toward her, but accidentally bumps into Rowan, ruining the entire effect.  He sees the principal, Aker Shaman, watching him with a smirk.  Lucian chastises Rowan, who pretends to not know what happened.

(We established here that Ray is not infected yet.  He gets his clothes from Mathilda, who told Gabriel they couldn’t afford to fix up their father’s motorcycle, and then bought Ray tons of expensive clothes.  Clothes that are a shabby, mismatched mimicry of Lucian’s.)

While Lucian and Rowan argue a bit, Gabriel and Veronica also have a bit of a disagreement (over Ray’s clothes). Everyone rolls their eyes at everyone else.  Except Heather, (one of Veronica’s followers) who thinks that Gabriel is dreamy.  Before leaving the cafeteria, Gabriel mentions to Ray that they’re going Hunting later.

He heads for the gym, where he informs Logan of the Hunt that evening.  There’s a haunted house that might be legit that they’re going to check out.  Zach walks past, and mentions that one shower is insufficient to wash away the smell of blood.

Logan gets a far-off look, but then crumples to the ground.  Gabriel tries basic first aid.  Zach is butting into the situation, following as Gabriel drags Logan to the nurse, talking about the football team.  Gabriel is trying to blow him off.  At reaching the nurse’s station, the nurse (Morgan) tells Zach and Gabriel to leave Logan and go.  They leave, Gabriel explaining that he needs Logan up and around as soon as possible.  After they’re gone, Morgan slaps Logan awake.  She works for Lucient, too; she’s the one who pyramided Logan.  He pleads with her a bit.  Then, wanting a favor, he shows her the pelt.  She takes it from him, very pleased.

That night, Logan joins Gabriel and Ray to go ghost hunting.  The haunted house is the site where someone ODed, and there’s been poltergeist activity ever since.  The dead girl’s name was Julia.

While they’re taking the advertised tour of the house, meantime Rowan, Zach, and Lucian all arrive separately at the beach.  Lucian followed Rowan at a distance.  Rowan likes to go out to the shore regularly.  Zach is restless and has decided to go running.

The Hunting party manages to ditch the tour.  (We decide that Ray hasn’t killed any monsters yet, and that Gabriel doesn’t know that Logan had a choice in his bargain.  Logan recognizes Ray’s ultimate fear — of being alone, of being left without a self.  The Darkness relays this to him, and then offers to show him where Julia (the ghost) is, if he’ll take his friends there and then say some words.  Logan tells Ray and Gabriel that he’s feeling something from the basement.  They head that way.

On the beach, Rowan is contemplating the sea.  Zach is running along the beach.  Rowan is swimming nude.  Zach runs past her, and stumbles clumsily as he sees her.  This has no affect on Rowan, but Lucian, watching, sees and is totally charmed by it.  He walks forward, turning on the charm.  They meet just a few yards from Rowan, and start making out.  Rowan is curious, and watches them.  Lucian turns to look at Rowan — they both do, kind of beckoning toward her.  She comes over to them, and she and Zach let Lucian drink their blood; then the three of them have sex together.

Meantime, Logan leads Gabriel and Ray to the basement.  Ray hears whispers in the basement, repeating “who are you?” over and over.  He loses it, screaming “I DON’T KNOW!”  Logan says the words the Darkness gave him.  Julia wants to escape and destroy all she can.  The atmosphere, which had been quite heavy, suddenly lightens; then the windows shatters.  They realize they’ve lost the ghost.  Gabriel chews out Logan and storms off, alone, to track down the ghost.  As he does, he has a sudden, confusing vision: all the cars are passing back and forth in front of him; then the cars are replaced by the Golden Gate Bridge, receding far away from him.

In the basement, Logan books it out of there.  Ray leaves to find Veronica.

Veronica, at this time, is overseeing some sort of sex ritual with her three inner circle followers.  She has a space in her family’s rec room in the basement of her house.  Her parents never bother her when her friends are around — she doesn’t like that.  Her mother is scared.  Her dad pays close attention to Heather.  While in the middle of the ritual, the door to the basement opens and Veronica’s father asks if they need anything.  She yells up at him to go away, and he does; although the door doesn’t click shut.

Veronica sees a vision of another basement; there are books lining the walls, a pentagram, the school nurse is meditating in the center of the pentacle.  She has the Selkie’s pelt in front of her.  Suddenly, the pipes begin to break; water floods into the basement.

Ray arrives at Veronica’s, but her dad won’t let him in.  Veronica comes up to see who’s there.  Her dad notices that Ray is afraid; he asks about Ray, and they mumble something and hurry to the basement.

On the beach, it’s afterwards.  Zach feels a strong connection to both of the others.  Lucian feels like it’s just, you know, a thing that happened.  Rowan wants to swim.  She and Lucian have done this before.  They start speaking in Japanese in front of Zach.  Zach feels like running, but as he leaves he says that they should all do this again.  In spite of themselves, they can’t bring themselves to shut him down.  After he’s gone, they talk about Rowan’s pelt, and her deal with Tyler.  Lucian decides to try and make it a double date.

At the Golden Gate bridge, Gabriel sees someone is about to fall off, as if pushed by an invisible force.  He runs to grab the person back from the edge, just as Julia makes the person let go.  There’s a second or two where the person is just suspended, in which Gabriel sees Julia smile through him — “Tell your buddy thank you!” — and the man falls into the water.  Gabriel tries to Julia.  He sees a vision of Logan in his bedroom at home, sitting on his bed and looking desperate.  Behind him is a woman, soaking wet, dripping, encouraging him to set more ghosts and spirits free.  Gabriel takes a cab to Logan’s place.

Rowan is swimming by the Golden Gate, when suddenly a body hits the water.

At Veronica’s house, Veronica sends Heather up to “check on” her dad.  She puts Ray into the sex ritual with the other guys.

Gabriel arrives at Logan’s house, climbing the balcony and knocking on the window.  He realizes, essentially, that Julia was freed by Logan and taking out Logan will destroy Julia.  Logan opens the window for Gabriel.  Once inside, Gabriel manages to get the drop on him, putting him in a choke hold and squeezing.  Logan is very quiet.  He’s weakening, but still fighting back.  Gabriel keeps crushing.  Somehow Logan manages to break from the choke-hold.  Gabriel hits him on the back of the head with his shotgun — he kills him.  But Logan’s mother has heard the commotion, and walks in to see Logan, dead, and Gabriel standing over him.  “…Gabe…?”

Zach switches over to his werewolf form, and ploys into a beach party, maiming and killing.

After the ritual, Ray realizes that no one respects his mother, but everyone respects Veronica.  He has a vision of Veronica being the one on the floor, in the ritual, and he’s the one sitting on the side, giving orders.  He likes it.  He wants to be Veronica.

Gabriel shoots Logan’s mother dead.

Lucian arrives at Veronica’s house, and it’s Ray that answers.  He’s dressed in his boxers and Heather’s blouse.  Lucian pushes past him.  Downstairs, Lucian asks Veronica on the date — she agrees.  As Lucian is heading back up the stairs, Ray blurts out that he’d date him, too.  Lucian points to his blouse, his boxers, and says, “Pick one.”  He heads up the stairs.

Final Thoughts

Although I’ve owned MonsterHearts ever since the Kickstarter, this was the first time I’d been able to play it, and it was really intense and really fun.  Everyone expressed the wish that we could continue on from where we had to end, but we’d been playing for several hours and it was time to head home.  Since Joe is a member of the IRL group I normally play with when I have time, I’m definitely going to twist his arm into running a campaign for us sometime soon: I’ll spend as many Strings as I need to make it happen!